Summer 2007: A Catalyst for Environment Change in ChinaTuesday, December 18, 2007 1:36
The summer of 2007, will be shown as a turning point in China’s development.
Everyday there was news that brought to light many of the issues China is having to address when managing when managing this economy. There were high profile cases in areas of the environment, manufacturing, labor, health, and so on.
One of these events, the green algae blooms in Taihu lake (and others), rocked China. . For years, chemical factories in the area had been dumping untreated waste into the lake, and when mother nature provided drought conditions in the area, lake levels dropped. When these two elements came together, the chemicals activated natural bacterias. Wuxi residents couldn’t shower in their city’s water, much less drink it. Firms were trucking in water from Shanghai, and overnight the prices of water spiked. It was a nightmare situation for the central government, who have been working on many levels to prevent this issues.
This event, more than any other in China, put government approved environmental activism on the map. Chemical factories were put squarely into the cross hairs of angry citizens and a frustrated central party. In a post entitled, , address how this event impacted a project I was working on and what firms could expect going forward.
Soon after, 20,000 citizens of Xiamen walked down mainstreet Xiamen to show that they did not want a large investment to move forward in their back yard. There was some press coverage, but in large part the importance of this event was missed as it was one of China’s first real citizen actions that was allowed to proceed without any interference… and it worked. The message of the people was received in Beijing, the project was shut down by the central office of NRDC, and a full review was conducted.
In the 6 months since both of these events, we have of course all seen the reports of China’s growing role in the global environment. the majority of reporters offered a number of statistics along with some slight of hand remarks that showed little appreciation of what was going on behind the scenes in China…
However, where I saw this as being different than before is that for the first time the general public was allowed to voice their opposition. More than that though, whereas the direction of civil society had historically been driven by the government, and individual citizens expected to look out for their best interests, through these events it was clean that the role of NGOs and individuals had taken a step forward.
That rather than view the government as the ultimate caretaker, individual citizens were given the power to hold companies accountable. and that is HUGE.
At this point, you are probably wondering why this is really important to you, and with my next post The Real Meaning of Public Hearings in Xiamen I will address that. But understand that the changes occurring are real, and that as I previous wrote, it is time to clean up or clear out.